Flying low cost carrier airlines with no bag and seat fees is not something I practice due to an inability to pay more. In general, I simply do not want to pay more than necessary. When possible, I also want to pack for a trip in a way that does not necessitate paying additional bag fees.
Frontier Airlines $96.40 round trip Oct 26-30, 2017
San Jose SJC to Denver DEN nonstop flights
Frontier Free Personal Carry On Bag
Frontier Airlines allows only one personal item for under the seat in front with maximum dimensions 8 inches x 14 inches x 18 inches. That is challenging, but not too difficult.
Eddie Bauer backpack 17 in x 13 in x 6 in. (can expand to 9 inches deep when stuffed).
Five days of clothes fit in my backpack and fit under the seat. I weighed my bag at SJC out of curiosity – 12 pounds.
My backpack contained:
- two long sleeve shirts,
- four t-shirts
- Columbia cargo pants with leg zippers to convert into shorts.
- five underwear
- four short socks and three thick socks
- one handkerchief
- laptop computer and cord
- 10 liter waterproof stuff sack (for computer in case of rain)
- two phone battery packs and charger
- plastic water bottle
- expandable bag
- toiletries (deodorant, toothbrush and paste, tweezers, scissors, razor)
- medications bottle with daily pills
- spork eating utensil
- 10 qt. size baggies (primarily for food storage)
Clothes I wore:
- one pair of Merrill shoes for the entire trip with temperatures ranging from 25 to 70F,
- Levi jeans on the plane,
- carried a sweater
- carried light Goretex coat with beanie cap, gloves and headband in pockets.
- Eagle Creek small shoulder bag. This is where I generally keep my eyeglasses case, earplugs, earphones for iPhone and eyeshade, and phone battery pack. Technically an additional bag, but nobody questioned it for this flight. I can also conceal it in the sleeve of my coat.
The late October temperature was near 90F in San Jose, California the day I departed for Colorado and 28F in Denver with light snow when I arrived three hours.
For longer trips I travel with four days clothes and plan to wash dirty clothes in my hotel, but on this trip I changed hotels every night and did not want to pack wet clothing between hotel stays.
I normally pack two pair of shoes, sometimes three, when I travel with backpack and a roller bag (tennis shoes, plus sandals or waterproof boots/shoes, depending on seasonal weather and terrain).
The one item I normally take on any trip, but left behind on this Colorado trip is my Nikon DSLR camera. Frontier seemed pretty relaxed about carry on baggage. I think I could have carried my camera in my hand onto the plane without any issue.
My SJC-DEN total ticket price remained at $96.40 round trip.
Carry on or checked bag fees on Frontier Airlines flight are lowest when added at time of booking ticket.
For my flights, bag fees were one checked bag $25 each way or $30 for a carry on bag at time of booking ticket.
$30 carry-on and $25 1st checked bag are valid for travel during Frontier value season periods:
- 9/6 – 10/31/2017
- 1/9 – 2/8/2018
- 4/17 – 5/24/2018
- Bag fee is $5 more when flying dates outside these periods.
If bag fee is not paid at time of booking, then the price increases to $38 for either carry on or checked bag. Even higher if bag fee paid at airport.
I saved $50 in Frontier bag fees with my under seat backpack.
Frontier Seat Fees
Self-select seat assignment fees were $15, $17 or $20.
I was assigned Seat 16F for free on SJC-DEN flight when I completed online check-in. I was assigned Seat 16A for free on DEN-SJC at time of online check-in. These seats would have cost $17 each to self-select in advance.
I saved $34 and flew window seats both ways by letting Frontier assign my seat on day of flight.
Airline Assigned Seats are a gamble. I usually beat the house.
My willingness to pay a seat fee is often determined by the length of flight. I don’t mind sitting in a middle seat for a flight under 3 hours.
Still, I have taken my chances on six California to Europe transatlantic flights in 2017 with WOW, Norwegian and Level and only flew in the middle seat for one of those flights. Several of the flights even had an empty seat beside me.
My favorite words on a flight are “Boarding Completed”. If I do not like my seat and see an available seat I would prefer, I quickly move as soon as I hear the words “Boarding Completed”.
Frontier Airlines SJC-DEN $96.40 round trip recap
I flew San Jose to Denver on Thursday and I returned from Denver to San Jose Monday on my $96.40 Frontier Airlines round trip ticket.
I did not pay any bag fees or seat assignment fees. This was my first low cost carrier flight in the USA in 2017. Last time I flew Frontier was two years ago.
Frontier bag and seat fees would have increased the price of my ticket from $96.40 to $146.40 with one checked roller bag or $156.40 with one paid carry on bag for the trip. Seat fees would have been at least $30 if I had self-selected the cheapest window or aisle seats at time of ticket booking, increasing my ticket price from $96.40 to $176.40 or $186.40.
Packing light for a free carry on personal bag and playing seat roulette kept my ticket price from increasing by 83% to 93%.
Flying low cost carriers at low cost
Low cost carriers are truly low cost, if you can pack small and light. In my experience, small is the critical factor compared to light. I have flown many times with no bag fee when my backpack free carry-on was heavier weight than the airline’s published rules. As long as the bag looks within regulation size, the airline rarely asks to weigh my bag.
My 2017 experiences flying low cost airlines without paying supplemental bag and seat fees indicates the published rules are generally much stricter than restrictions applied at airport.
Bottom line: Pack compactly.